Coming into the 2014 NFL Draft, Stanley Jean-Baptiste was thought to be one of the best cornerback prospects. At Nebraska, Jean-Baptiste finished with 74 tackles, seven interceptions, 22 pass deflections and one sack. For his play during his senior season, he was named second-team All-Big Ten, finishing with 41 tackles (three for a loss), one sack and four interceptions with one returned for a touchdown.
Jean-Baptiste’s athleticism showed up during the 2014 NFL combine with a 41.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot and six-inch broad jump. He stood at 6’3, 218 lbs. and his size was seen as a top-notch asset at the position. He impressed the New Orleans Saints enough to be selected in the second round with the 58th pick.
Though everything seemed to be falling into place for the then 24-year old, he played in just four games during his rookie season, mostly on special teams. It was thought that his situation would improve during his next year with the Saints. That would not be the case.
Things fell completely apart for Jean-Baptiste on September 3, 2015 in a 38-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers in New Orleans’ final preseason game. He was constantly beaten on plays and was chewed out by head coach Sean Payton for his play on the sideline. In just his second season in the NFL, Jean-Baptiste was cut from the Saints.
“Going into New Orleans, I was a rookie [and] I didn’t really know much,” Jean-Baptiste said of learning from his time with the Saints. “I just tried to control things that I couldn’t control. But at the same time, I learned from my mistakes.”
He would soon be picked up by the Detroit Lions on September 6, 2015, signing to their practice squad. However, he was released on December 15. Then, he was signed to the Seattle Seahawks practice squad on December 17. He would then be picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs on May 9, 2017, before being waived on June 15. The Jacksonville Jaguars signed him on July 25 of the same year, then waived and placed on the practice squad on September 2. By September 12, Jean-Baptiste would be released by his fifth NFL team.
Jean-Baptiste sat around for a few weeks with no team. His fortunes would finally change on October 3, 2017 when the Ravens gave him a shot on their practice squad. He would finally be called up to the active roster on December 5, making one tackle on the year. This season, Jean-Baptiste has a new outlook on his career.
“I would just tell myself to just control what I can control, on and off the field,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Everything will fall into place when it needs to.”
This is Jean-Baptiste’s first training camp with the Ravens, and he’s especially excelled this preseason. The 28-year old has two interceptions and has received more opportunities with the absence of Maurice Canady and the extra preseason game. Veterans have also needed a breather, giving Jean-Baptiste more on-field time.
“Other training camps were going well, just like how it is right now,” Jean-Baptiste said. “It’s just [there’s] more opportunities with the Ravens. At the same time, it’s just I’m getting more playing time. We have more vets on this side of the ball – the defensive side of the ball – [so] it’s a lot of rest time for them. So, that means I get on the field more.”
With Jimmy Smith’s pending four-game suspension, it is assumed that Jean-Baptiste will make Baltimore’s 53-man roster. During Smith’s hiatus, he feels that he can step up to make Baltimore’s roster to give them extra depth at corner.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do with Jimmy’s suspension,” Jean-Baptiste said of Baltimore’s roster decision. “The opportunity with me is going to come, as I said, on the field – finishing strong for this last preseason game and hopefully they make a decision upstairs.”
In his second season with the Ravens, Jean-Baptiste has felt more comfortable in his role. The defensive-minded franchise has felt like home to him.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty comfortable wherever I go,” Jean-Baptiste said. “But [the] Ravens … Yes, like you said, it feels more at home. It’s more like a family over here.”
Not only has he continued to grow on the field with Baltimore, but he has grown in the film room. The defensive scheme of the Ravens seems to fit him better and play more to his strengths, but regardless of what the situation is schematically, he believes that he is a better player overall.
“Yes, I think I’m a better player It’s more as in - not on the field, but just knowing how everything goes, just knowing how the system is and knowing how to control what I can control,” said Jean-Baptiste of his situation with Baltimore.
He hopes to make the most out of each preseason game, especially since his spot is not guaranteed. Jean-Baptiste is competing against Darious Williams for a potential roster spot and if he does make the team, he is fighting with 2018 fourth round pick Anthony Averett for playing time.
“Every game is important – even if it’s preseason. Going out there every day, putting out good film for all the 31 teams to see – that’s important. You can’t go out there and put out bad film, because that’s the last thing they’re going to think about you.”
Just because he hasn’t stuck with a team long term doesn’t mean that Jean-Baptiste has no confidence in himself. That confidence has been on full display and has helped guide him in the game that he loves so much.
“The confidence is already there,” Jean-Baptiste said. “To bounce back - it’s just football. You’re doing something you love. It won’t go away like that – that easy.”
If he gets to take on the team that drafted him, Jean-Baptiste would like to show New Orleans what they are missing out on. Luckily for him, he will have the opportunity to show the Saints that they made a mistake in cutting him. Baltimore takes on New Orleans in Week 7 on October 21.
“The chip [on my shoulder] is always there,” said Jean-Baptiste. “At the same time, whatever ball club I’m playing for, I’m going to give them my all. But if I do play against a team that cut me – yes, it’s going to be a little personal.”
When given the chance, Jean-Baptiste believes highly in his abilities. Those abilities in the past made him a second round pick, but he believes that his ceiling is much higher than just being a former second rounder.
“I think I can be one of the best in the league,” Jean-Baptiste states bluntly. “When I get my opportunity, I’m going to show it. But at the same time, until then I’m just going to keep working on my craft and just keep fighting for my way on the field.”